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Inclusive, Socially Just Teaching: Reflective Practice

Find resources to guide your approach to classroom approaches

Reflective teaching  is a systematic, rigorous, disciplined way of thinking that leads to professional growth. It helps faculty gradually reach teaching goals and improve student learning. When faculty engage in reflective teaching, they dedicate time to consider their assumptions and biases, evaluate their own teaching practice, examine curricular choices, consider student feedback, and make revisions to improve student belonging and learning. This process requires information gathering, data interpretation, and planning for the future.

Reflective teaching involves examining one’s underlying beliefs about teaching and learning and one’s alignment with actual classroom practice before, during and after a course is taught.

For this reason, all faculty should maintain a reflection journal.

Brookfield (2017) lays out four crucial sources for information about one's teaching: “students’ eyes, colleagues’ perceptions, personal experience, and theory and research.” A reflection journal is essential to recording personal experience and personal reflection. Faculty should gather additional information from observations, student evaluations, and research on social justice and learning. Because each semester’s or term's students and their needs are different, reflective teaching is a continual practice that supports effective, socially just, inclusive teaching.

Explore the reflective tools below. In addition to maintaining a reflection journal, consider two others you will adapt this term:

Reflection Journal

This private activity requires discipline and structure to document areas of growth, challenge and celebration. Faculty should systematically record their responses to questions listed below. Questions about identity encourage quarterly responses while teaching activities should be answered weekly.

Identity 

  • What is mix of identities? How has privilege or oppression shaped my perspectives on what students know, how they speak, how they interact with each other, and how they perform?
  • What stereotypes that have been used to justify policies that have further stigmatized and marginalized BIPOC, LGBTQ+, Disabled, non-Christian, and female identified people are informing my views of students?
  • How has my discipline created knowledge and decided what knowledge is valuable in this course?
  • How have disciplinary limitations constrained what and how I teach?
  • How will I push against these limitations?
  • What am I reading, viewing, learning, engaging to make new associations?

Teaching activities  

  • What went well today? 
  • What could I have done differently?
  • How did students participate? Did they participate equally? How did I respond to their questions and concerns?
  • If I lectured, was it engaging? How do I know?
  • Were student to student activities engaging?

Reflection tools

Teaching inventories help instructors assess and think more broadly about their teaching approaches. 

Review the tools below and adapt for your use.

 

Teaching portfolios require faculty to describe and carefully reflect on the effectiveness of their teaching. They generally open with a teaching philosophy or statement that is supported by diverse pieces of evidence of effectiveness and development. Portfolios are required for rank and promotion; however, on-going building and creation of portfolios encourage systematic reflection and guide professional growth. It is wise to begin collecting information early, reviewing older entries, taking notes on them, and storing new additions regularly.

A teaching portfolio could include all of the elements listed below.

  1. Your Thoughts About Teaching
    • A teaching philosophy that describes your approach to teaching, typical teaching strategies, and learning objectives
    • A personal statement describing your teaching goals for the next few years
  2. Documentation of Your Teaching
    • A list of courses taught  with enrollments and a description of your responsibilities (Did you develop the course, adapt one, follow a master course?)
    • Syllabi
    • Reading lists - especially if you have adapted them to be more inclusive, equitable, or socially just
    • Assignments - include those that spur engagement across diverse groups of students
    • Formative and summative assessments, graded and ungraded
    • Handouts, homework, lecture outlines
    • Descriptions and examples of digital simulations and visual materials used 
    • Recordings of your teaching
  3. Teaching Effectiveness
    • Summarized student evaluations of teaching, including response rate and relationship to departmental average
    • Written comments from students on class evaluations
    • Comments from a peer observer 
    • Statements from colleagues in the department or elsewhere, regarding the preparation of students for advanced work
    • Letters from students, preferably unsolicited
    • Letters from course head, unit head or chairperson
    • Statements from alumni
  4. Materials Demonstrating Student Learning (all anonymized to protect student identities)
    • Scores on tests, before and after instruction
    • Students’ papers, essays, or creative works
    • Graded work from the best and poorest students, with faculty's feedback to students
  5. Activities to Improve Instruction
    • Participation in seminars or professional meetings on teaching
    • Design of new courses
    • Design of interdisciplinary or collaborative courses or teaching projects
    • Use of new methods of teaching, assessing learning, grading
    • Preparation of a textbook, lab manual, courseware, etc.
    • Description of instructional improvement projects developed or carried out
  6. Contributions to the Teaching Profession and/or Your Institution
    • Publications in teaching journals
    • Papers delivered on teaching
    • Reviews of forthcoming textbooks
    • Service on teaching committees
    • Assistance to colleagues on teaching matters
    • Work on curriculum revision or development
  7. Honors, Awards, or Recognitions
    • Teaching awards 
    • Invitations based on teaching reputation to consult, give workshops, write articles, etc.
    • Requests for advice on teaching by committees or other organized groups

Observations and specific, high-quality feedback play an important role in fostering reflective teaching practice and improving instruction. Observations can contribute to a picture of teaching over time and help identify specific areas for professional growth.

Faculty can request a non-evaluative observation from a trusted colleague or from Cheryl Richardson, Director of Inclusive Teaching Excellence. In both cases, parties should meet before the observation to agree on goals for observation, discuss an observation protocol, and schedule a day to provide verbal and written feedback. 

Consider using an observation protocol to help focus on teaching practices and promote reflection. Below is a suggested, loosely structured protocol that is relevant to Adler University's values.

Students can provide information about what they observe in the classroom, and they can evaluate their abilities to learn in your class. They can help faculty understand how inclusive the classroom environment may be, determine whether a particular strategy is working, understand the effectiveness of a particular discussion, or if changes in the direction of a course is warranted. 

Minute Paper

The minute paper is a formative assessment strategy whereby students are asked to take one minute (or more) to answer two questions: what was the most important thing they learned in class today; and what still remains unclear to them. This helps faculty get a feel for whether students captured the most important points, and to know which areas need further expansion. 

Mid-Semester/Term Feedback

Collecting mid-semester feedback from students enables faculty to consider teaching adjustments specific to the particular needs of current class(es). Comments from students provide opportunities for instructors to clarify confusion and justify pedagogical choices. Feedback also invites students to reflect on their learning experiences and reminds students of course goals and values. The act of collecting feedback demonstrates that an instructor values student voice and experience. Consider asking the questions below and sharing aggregate results and planned adjustments as soon as possible.

  • What is helping your learning in this class? 
  • What is hindering your learning in this class? 
  • What could the instructor change to improve your learning experience in this class? 
  • What could you do differently to improve your learning experience in this class?

 

Small Group Feedback

In a small group feedback session (SGFS), a trained observer visits class and conducts a group discussion alone with students during the last 15-20 minutes of class.  They ask questions similar to those asked in the mid-term feedback session, but it can happen at any time, and students hear and share their ideas with each other. The observer then discusses the student feedback with the instructor. 

 

End of Term Survey

End-of-term course surveys are administered by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and is provided to students toward the end of every term.  Data from these surveys are shared with department and program heads, included in rank and promotion decisions, and can be used for improving courses when offered again.